Steve Downie's rough and tumble style makes him a natural-born Flyer. (David Zalubowski/AP)
By Allan Muir
Shortly after the fiesty Colorado winger had his right ACL blown out on a hit from Los Angeles defenseman Davis Drewiske last January, a scout offered up this thought to the assembled press box wags: "The Avs aren't the same team without Steve Downie in the lineup."
We'll see now if that's really true.
Colorado today sent Downie back to the Philadelphia Flyers, the team that originally chose him in the first round of the 2005 draft, in exchange for veteran winger Max Talbot.
Just 26, Downie is clearly the better player at this point, but it's his born-to-be-a-Flyer approach to the game that the struggling Philly side desperately craves. Despite a reputation for mayhem earned earlier in his career, he's matured into a solid performer who can make things happen with speed and creativity as easily as with a big hit. He had one goal and seven points for the Avs, an output that ties him with Vinnie Lecavalier for the Flyers' team lead, and while he's not a premium player himself, he has the tools to work well with guys who are -- see his time in Tampa Bay alongside Steven Stamkos. Expect to see him line up alongside Claude Giroux in an effort to create some space for/light a fire under the struggling captain.
So why give up on a guy like this, especially for a fourth liner like Talbot? Downie, on the books for $2.65 million, is an unrestricted free agent after this season, and there was probably a sense that re-upping him was going to cost more than the Avs were willing to pay. Or maybe, as Ken Campbell suggests, there's more to this deal than meets the eye. Conflict with coach Patrick Roy, perhaps? Dressing room turmoil? They got tired of winning all the time? We'll see.
Talbot, meanwhile, is signed through the 2015-16 season at a friendly cap hit of $1.75 million. On the ice, he's an experienced penalty killer and a veteran glue guy whose presence will could help get this young team past the inevitable bumps that lie ahead. He won't be able to assume the top-six minutes that Downie played, but P-A Parenteau should be able to step up and fill that role for the Avs.